In “Parenting Attitudes and Infant Spanking: The Influence of Childhood Experiences,” the authors interviewed 1,265 mostly low-income women during their first prenatal care visit and 3 and 11 months after they gave birth. The new mothers provided information about their attitudes toward corporal punishment and about their own childhoods, including any experiences of violence or other adverse childhood experiences. During the third interview, the mothers also provided information about how often they spanked their infants. Researchers found that 14% of mothers in this group spanked their infants, and 19% valued corporal punishment for infants. Mothers who had experienced physical abuse as a child were 1.5 times more likely to spank. More adverse childhood experiences were related to a greater propensity to spank.
The study’s authors discuss the need for early counseling about the potential harmful effects of spanking, especially with at-risk mothers who experienced physical abuse as children, in order to stop the intergenerational transmission of corporal punishment.